The challenges of activity analysis for training objectives

By Germain Poizat, Marc Durand, Jacques Theureau


This article shows how the ‘course of action’ research programme has enriched activity analysis with illustrations from studies in the field of vocational training. The principal hypotheses of this programme are first reviewed, after which we present the paradox at the core of any training objective to transform the activity of individuals ‘from the exterior’, while attributing to them an essential autonomy. We present the four main uses of activity analysis in the training context and their effects, in turn, on the analysis itself. The article next shows why the focus on transformations in activity leads to a dispositional perspective and describes the importance of understanding the conditions for constituting these dispositions (notably concerning how the situation can contribute). Some of the current challenges for activity analysis with a training objective are then reviewed: the study of trainees’ activity in situations that include the trainer as one of the components, suggesting that this component should also be analysed; the widening of the time horizon for analysis and the articulation of the different time scales; the articulation of lower and higher levels in the analysis of activity conceptualised as a multilevel system; and the development of an anthropo-technological approach for designing large and complex technical, organisational, cultural and historical systems, with training being an aspect. This presentation of the theoretical and methodological advances and issues may be of interest to researchers in the field of activity analysis as it raises the provocative question of a spatial-organisational-cultural-temporal broadening of current research.


  • course of action
  • activity transformation
  • individuation/appropriation
  • multilevel activity analysis
  • anthropotechnology
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